Lexington Avenue (IND 63rd Street Line)

IND 63rd Street Line

The IND 63rd Street Line is a rapid transit line of the IND division of the New York City Subway system. It runs from the IND Sixth Avenue Line at 57th Street east under 63rd Street and the East River through the 63rd Street Tunnel to the IND Queens Boulevard Line in Queens. Crossover tracks connect it to the BMT 63rd Street Line railroad south (compass west) of the Lexington Avenue station.

Extent and service

The IND 63rd Street Line carries service at all times, and is coded as new chaining route "T" (T1 and T2).

The IND 63rd Street Line and BMT 63rd Street Line share only one point of contact, west of Lexington Avenue, where double crossovers allow northbound and southbound trains of either line to crossover to the other line. At Lexington Avenue, a double-decked station will allow cross-platform transfers between the two lines when future service is up and running on the long planned 2nd Avenue Subway line, which will use the BMT 63rd Street Line as a connection for service downtown along the BMT Broadway Line. This double-decked arrangement is similar to the arrangement at Queensboro Plaza. Trains to Queens (and later Upper Manhattan) will use the upper level and trains to downtown Manhattan the lower level. Currently the BMT tracks are behind a wall on the platforms on each level, which will be removed when the tracks are put into active service.

The 63rd Street Line uses the 63rd Street Tunnel to cross the East River. The 63rd Street Tunnel is a two-level tunnel under the East River, which hosts the 63rd Street Line on its upper level. The lower level, currently without service, is reserved for the Long Island Rail Road's new East Side Access service to Grand Central Terminal, which is expected to commence operations in 2012. The western portion of the 63rd Street Line, which lies under Central Park west of the Sixth Avenue Line connection to another connection with the Broadway Line, is currently without service, and is reserved as a connection to the planned Second Avenue Line for service downtown via the Broadway Line.

Background

Early plans

In February 1963, the Transit Authority proposed a two-track East River subway tunnel under 76th Street with unspecified connections to the rest of the transit network, at a cost of $139 million. In a May 2 1963 report, the proposed site of the tunnel was switched to 59th Street. On May 24, Mayor Wagner suggested that a tunnel around 61st Street "be built with all deliberate speed. On October 17 1963, the Board of Estimate approved a new East River tunnel sited at 64th Street, noting that it would cost $30 million and take seven years to build. The 64th Street site was said to be $5.3 million less expensive, "because of easier grades and smaller curves.

The lack of specificity about how the tunnel would be used was criticized at an early date. In December 1964, the Citizens Budget Committee said that the project (now shifted to a 63rd Street site) was "leading nowhere-to-nowhere." The Committee went on to propose three connections that were eventually adopted (to the BMT Broadway Line and IND Sixth Avenue Line, both at 57th Street, to the IND Queens Boulevard Line at Queens Plaza), and one that wasn't (to the IRT Lexington Avenue Line).

The Board of Estimate approved the revised 63rd Street route on January 14 1965, at a budget of $28.1 million and a four-year timetable, with the connections to the rest of the transit network awaiting a study that was then scheduled for completion in mid-1966. The Times noted that "A variety of possible connections...are under study," including possible new lines under Madison and Second Avenues. The Transit Authority's chairman, Joseph E. O'Grady, said that the tunnel and the subway connections would eventually be completed at about the same time, "since construction of the tunnel takes at least a year longer than the connections.

In November 1967, voters approved a $2.5 billion transportation bond issue, and in early 1968 officials provided detailed plans for how it would be used. Among many other projects, the proposal included:

  • The bi-level 63rd Street tunnel for both subway and Long Island Rail Road service
  • A new subway line for northeastern Queens along the Long Island Expressway right-of-way
  • A new subway line for southeastern Queens diverging from the IND Queens Boulevard line at Hillside avenue, running along the LIRR Atlantic Branch right-of-way
  • A super-express bypass for the IND Queens Boulevard Line running along the LIRR mainline between Queens Boulevard and Forest Hills

This proposal, with some modifications, received approval from the Board of Estimate on September 21 1968.

Construction

Construction on the 63rd Street Line began on November 25 1969, with tunneling westward in Queens, as well as in both directions under Welfare Island (now called Roosevelt Island). The double-deck, 3,140-foot tunnel under the East River was holed through on October 10 1972. The East River tunnel was completed in 1973, and outfitting for the new lines that were to run through it was to begin in early 1974. Work on the segment of the line that ran under Central Park was started in 1971 and was completed in 1973. Construction began on the section between 5th Avenue and Park Avenue began in August 1974.

On March 20 1975, New York mayor Abraham Beame announced significant cutbacks to the plan. Construction of the Southeastern Queens extension was "delayed to 1981," and the Long Island Rail Road extension through the lower level of the 63rd Street tunnel was "indefinite[ly] shelved." However, it was still anticipated that the Queens Boulevard super-express and the Archer Avenue Line up to Parsons/Archer would still be completed. (The Second Avenue Subway had been dropped the previous December.) The Queens project, although curtailed, was given priority because it was "more advanced in construction.

By the summer of 1976, the Transit Authority would announce that "it will take an extra five or six years—until 1987 or 1988—to complete the new Manhattan–Queens trunk subway line from Central Park to Jamaica via the new 63rd Street tunnel." The main cause of the delay was the 5.8-mile "super express," although it was expected that the three new Archer Avenue line stations could be ready sooner. As an interim measure, the authority proposed a new station at Northern Boulevard, adjacent to the Queens Plaza, could be open by 1983 or 1984.

The Manhattan portion of the line was completed in 1976. The Times noted:

Underneath Central Park lie two eerily quiet sets of tracks. They have advanced equipment — welded tracks, fluorescent lighting and rubber-based pads under the rail — that have not yet been installed on most of the system's 230 operating miles.
These tunnels were finished in 1976. This year, the contractor will tear down his two-story office in Central Park, remove the fence near Fifth Avenue and restore foliage and the bird house he damaged, at a cost of $300,000.
By 1981, five years after completion of the tunnel, the Transit Authority expects to put it to use; its brand new quiet tracks will be used as a storage yard for out-of-service trains.

The unused tunnel

In May 1978, the Times noted, "What started out a few years ago as 40 miles of new subway routes to serve the long-suffering residents of Queens has been whittled down to 15 miles, is years behind schedule, and will cost more than twice as much as originally estimated....The line costs $100,000 a foot, will be very short and will serve only a modest number of riders." The article now noted that the Queens super-express had been deferred "to 1988 at the earliest," and the only sections in progress were the 63rd Street Line to Northern Boulevard, and "a small piece along Archer Avenue." The 63rd Street Line's opening date was projected for 1985. The plan depended on the idea that Queens Boulevard riders would be willing to exit the subway at Queens Plaza and walk a city block to a new station at Northern Boulevard to continue their trip. The transit authority projected that this transfer would draw 11,000 passengers a day.

By October 1980, officials considered stopping both projects and spending the money on maintaining the existing system. By now, the Archer Avenue project was projected for completion in 1984, and the 63rd Street line in 1985. The Times noted that the lower level of the 63rd Street tunnel was still under construction, even though "officials knew that the tunnel would never be used." Richard Ravitch, the MTA chairman, said that to stop the work was impossible or so costly as to make it impractical subsequent to the construction of the subway portion." It "had to be finished — largely for structural reasons — to support the subway tunnel above." It was described a as a "tunnel to nowhere.

In the spring of 1983, the MTA took a fresh look at the tunnel, considering every possibility between leaving it as-is (with its terminus in Long Island City), to the original 1960s plan, the cost of which was now estimated at $1 billion. Without some kind of connection to the rest of the Queens subway network, the line was expected to attract just 220 passengers per hour during the morning rush.

The plan eventually adopted was the least expensive (other than doing nothing) — to connect the tunnel to the local tracks of the IND Queens Boulevard Line, at a cost of $222 million, and a timetable of at least eight years. It was estimated that the project would attract 16,500 passengers per hour. The MTA board approved this plan on December 14 1984. The section of the line up to Long Island City was projected to open by the end of 1985.

By June 1985, the project was delayed again:

The 63d Street subway tunnel, which has been under construction for 14 years and was scheduled to open later this year, has serious flaws and will not open on time, transit officials said yesterday.

Some parts of the tunnel, which links Manhattan and Queens, are flooded with six feet of water, officials said. In other areas, girders are rusting and electrical equipment has corroded.

The officials would not predict publicly when the $600 million structure might be opened or how much the repairs would cost.

Two contractors were hired to assess the structural integrity of the tunnel, and the delay was estimated at two years. In August 1985, the federal government—at the instigation of Senator Alphonse D'Amato—suspended funding on both the 63rd Street and Archer Avenue projects—over "concerns with the construction management practices." The two projects had cost $1 billion between them, of which the federal government had provided $530 million for 63rd Street and $295 million for Archer Avenue.

Opening

By 1987, the MTA's contractors had concluded that the tunnel was structurally sound, although federal funding had not yet been released. On February 6 1987, the MTA approved a new plan to have the tunnel open by October 1989. The agency also proposed a $550 million, 1,500-foot connector to both the express and local tracks of the IND Queens Boulevard Line. Under the plan, the Queens Boulevard Line would be "reverse-signaled," which would accommodate Manhattan-bound trains on three out of the line's four tracks in the morning rush, and the opposite for the evening rush. This part of the plan was not projected to begin before the 1990s.

In June 1987, the federal government completed its own review of the project. "A little light appeared at the end of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's 63d Street "tunnel to nowhere" last week," the Times reported, as the government's own inspector found the tunnel sound, and released the final installment of $60 million for both the 63rd Street and Archer Avenue projects.

A month shy of twenty years after construction began, the line went into service on October 29 1989, after an expenditure of $898 million, with new stations at Lexington Avenue, Roosevelt Island, and 21st Street at 41st Avenue in Queens. The line was served by trains on weekdays and trains on weekends. The 1,500-foot connector to the Queens Boulevard Line had not yet started construction.

Connection to the Queens Boulevard line

Planning for the connection to the IND Queens Boulevard Line began in 1992; construction began in July 1994. The remaining section from 21st Street to the Queens Boulevard Line cost $645 million and opened on December 16, 2001. The construction project also extended the lower level LIRR tunnel and involved a number of other elements, including the integration of ventilation plants, lowering a sewer siphon 50 feet, rehabilitation of elements of the existing line, mitigating ground water, diverting trains which continued to run through the project area and widening of the entry point to the Queens Boulevard Line to six tracks. This new tunnel connection allowed rerouting the Queens Boulevard Line trains via the 63rd Street Tunnel, which increased capacity on the heavily-travelled Queens Boulevard Line.

Station listing

Station Services Opened Transfers and notes
Line begins as a split from the IND Queens Boulevard Line ()
21st Street–Queensbridge October 29, 1989
Roosevelt Island October 29, 1989
Lexington Avenue/63rd Street October 29, 1989 MetroCard transfer to (IRT Lexington Avenue Line) (59th Street station)
MetroCard transfer to (BMT Broadway Line) (Lexington Avenue–59th Street station)
Becomes IND Sixth Avenue Line ()

Footnotes

External links



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